After more than a decade, the St. Michael’s radio station WWPV 88.7 The Mike will end its partnership with Vermont Public Radio.
Starting on May 3, WWPV listeners won’t get their daily fix of the BBC World Service. Instead, the station will broadcast an automated music playlist when there is no deejay in the studio.
Starting in early May, WWPV will have to broadcast on its own 24 hours a day.
(Photo by Andrew Lanoue)
VPR began broadcasting BBC World Service, a consistent loop of international news programming licensed from the BBC, on WWPV in Dec. 1998. What started as a five-week trial period was well-received by faculty, staff, and students, as well as the community audience. The two radio organizations decided that BBC would be a permanent feature of “The Mike” during allotted hours of the day and night, said Robin Turnau, president and CEO of VPR.
“It worked out well for ’PV, because we didn’t have to figure out 168 hours of programming,” said John Connors, an IT middleware developer at St. Michael’s and technology adviser for WWPV. He has hosted “Those Monday Blues” since 2005.
The BBC World Service took over the weekday hours from 2 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. It was also convenient to air when students were off-campus for breaks, Turnau said.
When the partnership began in 1998, the BBC World Service wasn’t available through VPR 24 hours a day, Turnau said. But now, BBC is streaming on VPR’s website and airs on VPR’s HD Radio channel 107.9-3. Since VPR presents the information in other places, taking it off 88.7 saves the organization money.
But money is not the sole reason for the split.
“With the BBC available elsewhere, it’s time to let the students do what they want with their station,” Turnau said.
All music, all the time
As of May 3, WWPV will be airing an automated mix of music during the time that the BBC used to air.
The music will come from WWPV’s vast music library, as well as personal choices from deejays and WWPV staff, said co-music director Mary Cate Connors.
Now, DJs simply have to push a button for the BBC stream to go on air.
(Photo by Andrew Lanoue)
“On ’PV now we have a metal guy, two jazz guys, lots of variety,” she said. “It won’t be some cookie-cutter playlist.”
The automated mix will reflect the variety of styles represented on the station, she said.
The 100-watt WWPV reaches a broad audience, John Connors said. The signal is strong throughout the Burlington area, but even Bristol and Waterbury residents can hear WWPV programming through their radios.
WWPV also streams online via its Web site, wwpv.org. Since the station began streaming online three years ago, John Connors has learned of ’PV fans all over the globe. Two years ago, fans of “Those Monday Blues” from Oregon contacted him through the web to tell him that they were moving to China.
“Now they listen to my Monday night show on Tuesday mornings,” he said.
WWPV deejays encourage listeners to call in and participate in the programming, and the playlist will make WWPV less interactive, conceded both Mary Cate Connors and John Connors. But during the hours where it will be airing automatically, there aren’t deejays in the studio anyway.
But what about the news?
WWPV is starting a bigger push to prepare the community for the end of BBC on the air, John Connors said.
But some people will miss the BBC on 88.7, especially people who listened to the station on their way to work before 10 in the morning.
WWPV is working with Google radio to make this diagram of essential technology a reality.
(Photo by Andrew Lanoue)
“I told my pharmacist at Rite Aid that I work for WWPV, and she said, ‘Oh, BBC World Service,” John Connors said. “Lots of people only know us for the BBC.”
He said that he hopes the St. Michael’s community will step up to bring news programming to WWPV if they want it.
The split from VPR gives more opportunity for students and community members to get involved with the campus station, he said. The automated playlist is the solution for the immediate future, but in reality, WWPV now has complete control over what it airs 24 hours a day.
“If students or anyone in the community wants to have a news program or a talk radio show, let us know,” John Connors said.
The automation software could allow students to prerecord shows, too.
“People could produce a show offline and wouldn’t have to be in the studio at 3 in the morning to air it,” he said.
WWPV is “communicating actively” with the World Radio Network, a broadcast company that provides news briefs for radio stations around the world.
Though the split ends a decade-long partnership, neither party harbors negativity.
Reclaiming the airtime—especially the peak driving time of 4 to 5 pm—will bring more listeners to WWPV, Mary Cate Connors said.
“People can get to know us better. They’ll be able to hear our music and get into ’PV.”